Where is the desert in Morocco and how do I get there?

A drone flying over a sand dune

The Moroccan Sahara has several regions where one can go. You can either choose the vast desert dunes of Erg Chigaga or the beautiful desert peaks of Erg Chebbi or to the smaller and not as impressive desert regions of Tinfou dunes by Zagora or Erg Lihoudi by M’hamid.

All these Moroccan Sahara sand dunes deserts are far away , a long travel distance from any major touristic Moroccan city including Marrakech, Fes, Casablanca. However, remember that the desert tour is still very much worthwhile and repeatedly the highlight of Moroccan vacation to many tourists venturing to Morocco. Travelers get to experience the orange desert dunes, blue skies , camping under the stars , desert camel rides and many more adventures.

There are several ways how to get to Sahara Desert depending on your budget and time restrictions. Here below are some tips and alternatives on how to get to the Moroccan Sahara Desert.

By private helicopter or private jet

The easiest and fastest way is to reserve private helicopter directly to the desert camp or private jet plane to the nearest airport of the desert dunes. The helicopter ride to Erg Chigaga is fairly affordable especially if there is large number of travelers to share the cost between. It takes little over 1 hour and cost around $10, 000 USD for return trip with one night stay.

The helicopter travel to Merzouga desert though can be very expensive and takes over 2 hours. The wiser and better choice in this case would be to hire private small jet and arrive to Errachidia airport that is located about 2 hours away from most desert camps in Merzouga Erg Chebbi desert. It takes about 1 hour fly time from Marrakech and around 30 minutes from Fes. The cost is around $12 000 USD for one night overnight stay.

You can also opt for private jet flights to Zagora airport which is under 1 hour flight time from Marrakech and then it takes around 3 ½ hour drive to the desert dunes of Erg Chigaga.

Commercial planes

Not many of us can afford the private jets and helicopters but if you want to avoid the long day drives therefore, we suggest on checking into the domestic flights with Royal Air Maroc.

As mentioned Errachidia is the closest airport to Merzouga desert , just around 2 hours driving so great alternative to fly here. Royal Air Maroc offers from daily to 3 weekly flights depending on the season. What we don’t like is that these flights arrive so late at night and depart so early in the morning. But it is no problem for us to collect you at the airport in the night hours and take you to Desert Luxury Camp. Many guests also used the early morning travel flight from Errachidia, departing from our camp early morning with packed breakfast.

Alternatively, you can fly to Zagora airport. Zagora airport is somewhere between Erg Chegaga dunes (appx 3 hours’ drive) and Erg Chebbi desert dunes (appx 4 hours’ drive). However, the direct flights from Casablanca are limited to 2 to 3 weekly direct flights.

Other possibility is to consider flying to Ouarzazate airport. There are direct flights with Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca (practically daily) and few weekly flights from Marrakech. However, Ouarzazate is not an ideal, the best choice airport for your desert tour. It will still take you about 6 hour driving to either Erg Chebbi desert dunes or to the vast expanse dunes of Erg Chigaga.

Driving – Our preferred, recommended choice!

Driving is a great alternative if you have the time. Ideal situation would be to use the flights one way and driving the other. We highly recommend this option of driving as the Southern Morocco is a journey of itself ! It‘s a different Morocco to the one you get to encounter in Marrakesh and Northern part of the country. The Southern Morocco is highly cultural, and many people keep their ancient traditions and live old ways as their ancestors did. In some of the smaller Berber villages people still live in huts made of mud / clay dwellings. You may even spot women washing their clothes in river. You may encounter Nomads with their herds. You’ll get to see sumptuous and traditional Kasbahs that once play an important role in the history on the camel caravans. You’ll get to see beautiful and very varied natural landscapes from mountains, deserts, river valleys, oasis. It is a region that should not be missed if you are visiting Morocco. Our advice is to take it slowly. The more days you have for desert tour the better it is ! We would recommend for the driving Sahara Desert tours to have at least 4 days, but more is even better. Please check into our travel packages. *Please put link to packages here

We understand that not everyone is able to have a long Moroccan vacation, so it is possible to do these desert trips in 3 days. We have organized these desert tour of Morocco in 2 days and 1 night too, but I always try to discourage clients from doing so. It is a long car journey and may not be worthwhile to everyone.

The driving can be done in several ways too. The easiest way is to book the desert tour with one of our knowledgeable drivers that speak your language. Our drivers are not just expert drivers but also highly conversant, informed and fun to be around with. They take the stress out of the navigation and driving but also provide insights into the Moroccan way of living and its culture. Majority of the drivers that we use on our Moroccan desert tours are born and raised in some parts of Southern Morocco and have strong ties to their families and the culture of the South and are happy to share it with you.

You can also self-drive. There are many car rental agencies in the major cities in Morocco that allow even one way travel. The roads of Southern Morocco are easy to drive on. The biggest challenge may be the road of Tizi and Tichka crossing the High Atlas between Marrakech and Ouarzazate but it in the recent years it has been made wider and safer. But note that the road has many twists, curves and winds up and down. It is not yet completely finished. The road may also close down in winter months due to snow so does the road connecting Fes with Merzouga. The biggest advice if you decide to self-drive in Morocco is take your time! The other day while meeting with clients they said they didn’t realize how long the traveling distances were. The did their search on google maps but were surprise how inaccurate that information was! You need to tally with an extra time if you are using Google maps for your research.

You don’t have to rent 4x4WD vehicle to self-drive to the Sahara Desert. You can arrive in small sedan rented car. If you are traveling to Merzouga, we would send you a local address where we would meet you and take you in 4WD to the camp with your luggage. You can leave your car safely park at the spot at no charge. The drive will be about 10 to 15 minutes from the suggested place. The return transfer in 4WD is included in the price stay of the camp in Merzouga desert.

If you are thinking going to Erg Chigaga , then we’ll meet you in Mhamid with 4x4WD and take you to Erg Chegaga desert dunes. This route is longer and will take about 2 hours off road driving. Cost of the transfer is not included in the stay of the camp.

We show you where to park your car securely and without additional charge in M’hamid.

If you do want to drive in 4x4WD into the desert dunes, then you can make it all the way to the desert camps on your own. We would send you GPS location , however, I would highly recommend collecting a guide in Mhamid if you traveling to Erg Chigaga desert dunes. Driving in the desert requires certain skills and is not for everybody. It can be technical in some places. GPS’s might be handy to rely on if weather is good but in poor visibility guide is really essential for your own safety! Remember the Erg Chegaga desert dunes are vast, and it has happened to us that travelers got lost there. They were following Waze application that was leading them completely wrong way into Algeria. We and they were lucky, as we had drone available during that period of time in camp and were able to locate them thanks to it.

A car driving through a desert

Public transport

If you are on a strict budget or just like the sense of your own adventure and don’t mind using public transport you can reserve a seat on a bus. The bus system in Morocco is great and can take you into the Sahara. There are two bus companies Supratours and CTM but only Supratours are going to the popular desert destination of Merzouga. There is one bus that connects Fes and Merzouga and also another bus a day that connects the journey from Marrakech to Merzouga. There are also buses that can get you to Zagora and even further onto Mhamid if you are thinking to go to Erg Chegaga. But there you still need to hire private 4x4WD car for the trip to reach Erg Chigaga desert dunes or several days camel trip.

The transportation by buses is tiring and long we advise against it.

A person walking with a camel

Organized tour

There are many many companies that offer mostly private desert tours to Merzouga desert with Erg Chebbi dunes. Most of the tours are private. I would be careful with the group tours as they tend to be very cheap with extremely bad service where the desert tour can turn into an organized shopping tour instead. No wonder, often the drivers don’t get paid for these tours, and they have to make their money somewhere.

Most of the private tours tend to be very similar with just different hotel selections. From our past clientele we are different! We always strive to offer you the best desert tours depending on how many days you have and the time of the year. Most of the time we offer you two different options for your desert trip and let you choose your preference. We believe that we are not all the same type of travelers and each of us is looking for our unique desert experience. We offer just that!

There are fewer desert tours to Erg Chigaga. The route around is less frequent , more off the beaten path desert travel. The reason is due to the difficulty getting there and the need for 4WD off road vehicle. Although it is still stunning !

You will not likely see group tours and buses heading to Mhamid for the desert adventure. We provide organized desert tours to Erg Chigaga desert dunes as well with several optional itineraries. Email us for details and price quote.

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